A new ranking by property PR firm ING Media on the UK’s top 20 most digitally visible cities, using data from social media, online news, and global city indices, highlights the importance of digital messaging for cities’ global brands. 

The result for the top 20 most visible cities by ‘online mentions per person’ ranked Liverpool, Oxford and Cambridge in first, second and third place, respectively, followed by Edinburgh and London. Liverpool notched up more than 35 online mentions per person, more than double that of Edinburgh and London – thanks largely to mentions of football and the Beatles. As global centres for academic debate, Oxford and Cambridge also performed well.


Meanwhile, London came first in the top 20 most visible cities by ‘total online mentions’, by a huge margin of 54.5%, followed by Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow. 

“UK cities are investing heavily into building brands that reflect their attractiveness as cultural, business and education centres. London dominates but, surprisingly, Liverpool punches well above its weight, coming second overall and topping the table when weighted for population,” said Leanne Tritton, managing director at ING Media.

The cities’ digital visibility varied across social media platforms. For example, Liverpool performed well for mentions on Twitter, Facebook and forums, while Manchester performed better for news, blogs and Tumblr. Notably, Brighton had the eighth most photos overall on Instagram. 

More than half of the top 20 UK cities show a tight correlation between their place in this ranking and ‘traditional’ global city rankings (independent of ING Media). However, some cities punch above their weight for online mentions vs tradition rankings, such as Liverpool and Sheffield.

Another group of cities, including Coventry, Nottingham, Belfast and Aberdeen, do not necessarily transfer their strong ‘traditional’ city ranking to the digital world, meaning they have the most potential to increase their digital profiles. For instance, as UK City of Culture 2021, Coventry may soon see increased conversations on the topic of culture. 

Currently, Edinburgh has the highest percentage share for conversations on culture while those of Cambridge concentrate around talent. Aberdeen has the highest conversation share for business, and Reading’s are on technology and liveability, highlighting the town's appeal as an innovation hub.